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The latest Keuchel free-agent rumors

MLB.com

After a seven-season tenure with the Astros that included a trio of 200-inning seasons, an American League Cy Young Award in 2015 and an overall 3.66 ERA, Dallas Keuchel is now a free agent.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.

After a seven-season tenure with the Astros that included a trio of 200-inning seasons, an American League Cy Young Award in 2015 and an overall 3.66 ERA, Dallas Keuchel is now a free agent.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.

How Halos' signing of Harvey affects Keuchel
Dec. 18: The Angels have, in part at least, addressed their glaring need for innings-eaters by signing Matt Harvey to a one-year deal. Will that take them out of the running for Dallas Keuchel? Perhaps not necessarily. 

Angels starters last year were worth 8.9 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs, which tied the Cubs for 12th-lowest in the Majors. They also compiled a 4.34 ERA, tied for the 11th-highest, and gave up 123 homers, tied for the eighth-highest.

As it stands, Harvey, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs are perhaps the only rotation locks currently. Shohei Ohtani and JC Ramirez are each recovering from Tommy John surgery and only Ramirez could make a return to the mound in 2019. Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, who departed this offseason via free agency, also underwent Tommy John in 2018. 

The point here is that the club needs healthy arms, and while Harvey offers more upside than liability, he is far from the elite ace that he was early in his career with the Mets. And Harvey dealt with an array of injuries over his six seasons in New York, most notably undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in the summer of 2016 and Tommy John in '13. 

Keuchel battled a neck injury in '17 that sent him to the disabled list for the first time in his career and a back injury last season, though he never hit the DL for that specific injury. 

General manager Billy Eppler has said throughout the offseason that the club would like to add at least one durable starting pitcher. The front office is also in the market for one to two relievers and a veteran catcher. There are holes within the Halos' roster, and though the club made progress in addressing at least one, there is still plenty of room within the starting rotation for an established arm like Keuchel. 

Keuchel, Reds could be a perfect fit
Dec. 17: The Reds have made their search for starting pitchers well known. They acquired veteran innings-eater Tanner Roark from the Nationals last week to address their rotation, but they're likely looking to do more to improve what has long been a weakness. What better way to do that than go after the top remaining starter on the open market: Dallas Keuchel.

The Reds already have been linked to the southpaw, and it's a match that does make a lot of sense for a number of reasons, including Keuchel's resume (2015 AL Cy Young Award winner), durability (190 2/3 IP per season since '14) and homer-suppressing, ground-ball-inducing repertoire. As far as that last element goes, MLB.com's Manny Randhawa explains why Keuchel would be a great fit for the Reds and their homer-friendly home park.

"Keuchel had the highest ground-ball rate of all qualified starting pitchers last season, at 53.7 percent, and his 58.0 percent ground-ball rate over the past three seasons is fourth among qualified starters over that span," Randhawa writes. "His career high was 66.8 percent in '17. As for quality of contact, Keuchel's barrel rate of 4.5 percent was eighth-best among pitchers that yielded at least 400 batted balls (91 pitchers) last season.

"A byproduct of Keuchel's penchant for ground balls and weak contact is the low rate at which he's surrendered home runs in what has been a prodigious era for sluggers. In '18, his home runs per nine innings rate was 0.79, ninth-best among qualified starters. And in the season prior it was 0.93. Out of all balls hit in the air off Keuchel last season, just 18.5 percent were hard-hit according to Statcast™, 10th-lowest among pitchers that induced at least 400 batted balls (91 pitchers) in '18."

Another factor to consider? The current Reds rotation is expected to feature Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani and Tyler Mahle, so a lefty like Keuchel would provide a different look and some variety.

Keuchel may sign late in offseason
Dec. 15: Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi are off the market, and Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ have reportedly agreed to deals as well, which means Dallas Keuchel is clearly the biggest name remaining among free-agent starters. But the left-hander may not be finding his next team anytime soon.

According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, Keuchel isn't expected to sign until late in the offseason. Lin reports that the Padres are interested in the southpaw, but his asking price is prohibitive for San Diego. The same likely goes for many other teams.

Tweet from @dennistlin: The Padres have interest in Dallas Keuchel, according to sources, though the asking price is currently prohibitive (likely so for most teams). Keuchel, a Scott Boras client and the top free-agent starter left, isn���t expected to sign until late in the offseason.

Keuchel could be this offseason's version of Jake Arrieta, who entered free agency after the 2017 campaign and didn't sign until March 2018, when he landed with the Phillies on a three-year deal for $75 million -- well below what he was reportedly seeking initially.

The similarities between the two pitchers are striking. Both are Scott Boras clients who won Cy Young Awards in 2015 but showed some signs of decline before hitting the free-agent market. Arrieta rejected a qualifying offer from the Cubs, so Philadelphia had to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him. Teams will need to do the same to add Keuchel, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Astros in November.

Nats 'leery' of signing Keuchel long term
Dec. 14: After shelling out $140 million and committing six years to Patrick Corbin, the Nationals have some apprehension about dishing out another long-term deal in the starting pitching market -- specifically for Dallas Keuchel, according to Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports

Keuchel is believed to be seeking a deal in the four- to six-year range, and many analysts predict he will get it. The Nats likely won't be willing to commit that length to the left-hander, per Zuckerman. 

Washington was one of just two clubs last year (with the Red Sox) to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax. Should it again exceed that mark, set for $206 million in 2019, the penalty will rise to the maximum of 50 percent. The club already has committed $525 million to its top three starters -- Corbin, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg -- over separate deals. 

Though they could feature arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the Majors, the Nats' fourth and fifth starter spots are uncertain, particularly after they traded Tanner Roark to the Reds on Wednesday. The Nats have been linked to Keuchel this offseason, more so before they signed Corbin, but there might be more affordable avenues for them to continue to upgrade the back end of their rotation.

Amid active day, the top name among free-agent starting pitchers is ...
Dec. 12: The market for starting pitchers took off on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings.

First came reports that lefty J.A. Happ was close to a three-year deal to return to the Yankees. Then there was news of Charlie Morton agreeing to a two-year pact with the Rays. Next? Fellow righty Lance Lynn landed a reported three-year contract from the Rangers. And soon thereafter, the Reds acquired right-hander Tanner Roark in a trade with the Nationals. Got all that?

That's a lot of action -- and a lot of pretty big starting pitcher names more or less off the board -- in a very short amount of time. On the heels of Patrick Corbin signing for $140 million with the Nationals and Nathan Eovaldi getting $68 million to stay with the Red Sox, it's time to recalibrate and reevaluate what's left.

For starters, one name now sticks out as the top pitcher available in free agency: Dallas Keuchel.

Gio Gonzalez, Matt Harvey, Anibal Sanchez, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley now represent some of the better options among starters in free agency. Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi -- who has until Jan. 2 to sign a deal with a Major League team after being posted by the Seibu Lions earlier this month -- is the other intriguing option in play, as the 27-year-old might possess the most upside (and also the most uncertainty) of the bunch.

While all of the above can be capable rotation options, none has the same combination of age, durability and proven performance that the soon-to-be 31-year-old Keuchel offers. That should be a very good thing for the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, who owns a 3.28 ERA while pitching 950 1/3 innings over his past five seasons.

Put simply: While there's no shortage of trade candidates, including Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Madison Bumgarner and others, if a team wants to land a free-agent starter who can pitch at or near the top of a rotation, that list pretty much boils down to Keuchel.

"Now, I think you get into some of the guys like Keuchel, like Kikuchi -- they're the guys who we're going to see [get] longer-term [deals]," MLB Network analyst Jim Duquette said Wednesday evening at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. "Talking to Scott Boras, who represents both of them, he seemed to indicate there were several teams willing to give them four or five years."

The Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Reds and Angels are among the teams that have been linked to and/or could be fits for the left-hander, who appears to be in a strong position to command a big-money, multi-year deal from clubs that have missed out on other starters on the open market so far.

Phillies eyeing Keuchel
Dec. 11: The Phillies reportedly turned their attention, in part, to Dallas Keuchel after losing Patrick Corbin to the division-rival Nationals earlier this month, and they still appear to be considering the 30-year-old free agent.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, Philadelphia remains in on Keuchel and reliever Zach Britton, and the club continues to eye a "mega free agent" (presumably Bryce Harper or Manny Machado) as well.

Tweet from @BNightengale: The #Phillies in on Dallas Keuchel and Zach Britton while also hoping to lure a certain mega free agent

Beyond the Phillies, the market for Keuchel is still a bit hazy on the second full day of the Winter Meetings.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Monday that the Braves, Phillies and Reds are the top three teams in on the left-hander, but MLB.com's Mark Bowman has heard something different. Per Bowman, the Braves have not had discussions regarding Keuchel. And MLB.com's Mark Sheldon has previously reported that the Reds' interest in Keuchel was being overblown.

It's possible the connection between Keuchel and the Braves was floated by Keuchel's representatives to get the Phillies to up their offer. A left-handed starter is believed to be high on Philadelphia's shopping list. The club's rotation skews right-handed, and only two southpaws -- Adam Morgan and Ranger Suarez -- have started a game for the club since Cole Hamels was traded to the Rangers in 2015.

Angels could pursue Keuchel
Dec. 10: The Angels are seeking rotation upgrades and have been more engaged than anticipated on the top free agents, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required).

Major League sources told Rosenthal that the club made "quiet runs" at Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi before they signed with the Nationals and Red Sox, respectively.

The Angels could now turn their attention to Dallas Keuchel and Yusei Kikuchi, among others, according to Rosenthal.

Keuchel's reliability could be especially enticing for the team, given the injury histories of its current rotation options, which include Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez, but not Shohei Ohtani, who won't pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.

Is Keuchel now the top free-agent starter?
Dec. 6: The Red Sox worked fast to reunite with Nathan Eovaldi, landing the righty with a four-year deal only two days after the Nationals gave a reported $140 million over six years to lefty Patrick Corbin. Those two represented arguably the top free-agent starting pitchers this offseason.

Does that make Dallas Keuchel -- a reliable, durable, in-his prime southpaw -- the clear No. 1 name among starters on the open market?

The 30-year-old does have an impressive resume, starting with his 2015 AL Cy Young Award. Keuchel also sports a 3.28 ERA over his past five seasons, which is 16th best in baseball over that span (minimum 500 innings pitched). His 950 1/3 frames since '14 also represent the 13th most in MLB.

While Keuchel's repertoire isn't overwhelming -- he's more of a command pitcher who relies on his sinker to get grounders and keep the ball in the park -- his age, performance and experience, including a 3.31 ERA over 51 2/3 postseason innings in his career, suggest he's now ranked No. 1 in the free-agent market for starters.

Dallas Keuchel